A child’s heart is like a blank paper. Extreme inner self-conflict in a child can tear it gravely, making him feel bleak observations about the world and people in it. It is believed that kids know more than they can say. Many of such chest tightening situations demands the need to verbalize the internal conflict.
This story is about an emotionally charged boy, who, despite having the feeling of being on edge, speaks and lives happily ever after.
The excitement was missing this time. Mom kept on asking me about my awful state of mind. I felt like crying. The train was to leave at 4 p.m., but the waiting seemed to be intolerable. Naani (maternal grandmother) knew that I am usually in an irritable state whenever time nears to leave her place. It was only during my next summer holidays I could see all of them again. The anxiety was eating me from inside. I did not know how to pass next couple of hours as the time to board the train neared. Kaali, the lovely dog, and our dear pet knew precisely about my emotions, sitting quietly next to me.
For the past many years, I have been coming to my Naani’s house at old Delhi during my summer holidays. It was an anxious wait for a boy like me, and so was the case with most of my classmates. Another good reason to visit Naani’s place was those exciting train trips. I adored train journeys and loved to gaze for hours out of the window looking at the passing fields and electric poles. The vibrancy at Naani’s house was unexplainable. I along with my Mom, Naani, Maternal Uncle and Kaali, turned the house into nothing less than a marriage celebration. And, how do I describe my Naani? She was built of sweetness. I loved to touch her withered hands. Her glowing rosy cheeks were more like early morning sunshine. She was happy to spend most of her time in the kitchen making all those traditional delicacies. She was sweet and adored me. I could impart everything to her. She was the one I always missed the most. All the discipline and food restrictions back home were overlooked entirely, or I would say hardly missed at her place.
Further, I loved about this house was sleeping on the terrace experiencing cool night breeze and gazing at the beautiful stars in the sky. Despite those massive electricity cuts, the ladies preferred to sleep inside the house whereas males were allowed to sleep on the terrace. Uncle used to take me out to the city for sightseeing and movies.
And my favorite one-Kaali, the dog I adored and cherished. According to Naani, Kaali guarded her house very well after she gave away some food to her one day. Since then this lovely creature had become a part of our house. She used to bark on every auto rickshaw that passed by on the day we were supposed to arrive.
I shared a perfect synergy with my uncle. The previous evening he bought my most loved chicken curry from a well-known shop close-by, and we as a whole savored it. Mom and Naani had their standard veggie course, but me and my uncle thoroughly delighted in the curry. Kaali was at seventh paradise enjoying the flavorful chicken bones. My Uncle ran a small goldsmith shop in the local market after learning the craftsmanship from one of the relatives, and I frequently visited his shop to see those shiny beautiful gems.
Then why was this transpiring? I continued gazing at the ring on my little finger containing my birthstone. Mom got it made at uncle’s shop recently. Uncle tried various sizes and pattern on my finger before getting me a perfect fit. I was bit excited in the beginning, but after a while I realized the atmosphere in his shop was choking me as I saw a boy of my age, working in his shop, polishing pieces of jewelry with his little hands. His eyes were sad and painful. I could not stand this and ran home. At Naani’s house, as I was sitting in the front open verandah, the sunbeams reflecting from my birthstone were penetrating my heart. I didn’t know the response to this. Everything was going on so well. Ours was a perfect family until the unexpected happened.
I was sad, or instead, say DEVASTATED. I don’t think I would ever revisit this place. At this point, all the right things were blurred images. It was only an hour left to leave Naani’s house and, I needed to revolt. It was just coming on my lips but retreating. The huge suitcase was packed lying on the ground, covered with a roughish khaki cloth. The auto rickshaw had already arrived to take us to the railway station. I could not control myself and by now, began crying. They say dogs’ sense everything. So did Kaali. She quietly walked away from me and went straight under the charpoy lying in the verandah. Mom was insisting on hurrying up. Uncle tried kissing on my forehead wishing me good luck in my next class, but I withdrew. They thought I was emotional. I was…but not anymore. Naani’s good services made me strong from inside. It was in this morning only Naani had invited children from an orphanage for offering food and clothes. My little mind knew that orphans were the one without parents. But I kept calm and did not show any sign of painfulness on my face. Mom and Uncle served food to them as they all sat cross-legged on the wooden mattress, enjoying every bit of homemade food, with a shine of bliss on their little faces. Naani invited them every year at home for breakfast. She felt that such a noble act would convey peace to my maternal uncle’s soul. But my little personality was still restless. In what manner can these offspring of my age spend their existence without parents? How could they be fulfilling their wishes? How do they curb their desires for good clothes, shoes or sweets? Naani told me that their folks deserted many of these children on an old antique wooden swing kept outside the orphanage. The swing was attached to a rope and the rope to an old crude iron bell. Whenever somebody left a baby on the swing, the bell made a Dong noise alerting everyone of a new arrival.
Mom understood the very sensitive nature of mine and took me lovingly into her arms. Till the time I was not mixed up with these youngsters, my brain was troubled. But after a while I was light and comfortable, sitting with them and chatting. Uncle even recommended strongly to the orphanage manager that one of the older orphans could work in his shop and start earning his livelihood, but was politely refused by the manager considering his immature age. By now, I was feeling strong. If these children can live in such adverse circumstances, then why not me? I was changed, and no one could stop me now.
I someway or other knew how to leave this spot in the way I needed to. And I ended the silence. A silence that made kingdoms fall and leave generations disturbed. Naani nearly suffered an attack, and it was now Mom’s turn to cry. Kaali looked at another side towards the door avoiding eye contact. And my Uncle! He was standing like a statue not to know what to say. It seemed that last night the stars had turned their eye. I hated now to sleep under dark skies. Sounds of running children in the street could be heard clearly. Mom always told me. ‘At your age don’t think too much. Just enjoy and speak up whatever you have in mind. It will always lighten you.’ And I could not think of anything else. Anger clearly showed on Mom’s face. She screamed, screamed so hard at Uncle that I could feel people from other houses peeping out of their windows. This summer vacation was a journey to hell. I held Mom’s hand as if I was feeling sorry for her. Mom was holding my hand so hard that I could feel the hardness on my palms. Now I knew that during my visit to Uncle’s shop, why was the young boy working for him was sad and scared. He was one of those boys who ran away from the orphanage refusing to stay there and uncle hired him as a worker. Now I knew why the manager of the orphanage rejected the offer when uncle insisted on retaining another one. Naani took me to a nearby temple every day for worship, but it seemed my faith in God was quickly fading. If this could happen to a perfect family like ours then what would be the fate of thousands of innocent children on the streets? Are there sufferings similar to mine? My childish mind wanted to punish him. Let God make no one weak hearted! I had no idea how Naani and uncle are going to spend the rest of the time or days in the house. I also didn’t know if my Mom would ever want to visit this place again. But I knew somewhere something I had done was right.
So I think I spoke my heart for good. All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think this is who I am… I shrugged the past by speaking up. Else my past would have killed me entirely. Mom silently hugged Naani with her eyes down, and we both left. Looking out of the auto rickshaw, I took out the ring from my finger and gave it to my mom. Probably my birthstone was not quite right for me. But now I felt liberated for good.
As the autorickshaw moved towards the railway station, I took my head out and touched the cool breeze right on my face as the sky clouded, giving away an indication of probable rain. My mind was wandering somewhere in the universe, and only thoughts that came to my mind were …
How green was my valley….
How blue is my sapphire…
How dark was the sky…
How ignorant were the stars…
As my past goes by….
My life now goes far, far and far…